les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Some more Christmas Bach

BWV 82 Ich Habe Genug is based on Simeon's song, known as the Nunc Dimittis ("Now dismiss")

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Diolch yn fawr iawn i S4C am y rhaglen hon!

This programme shows the valley where I grew up, features the brass band I played with as a lad and then goes on the my university town. I half expected Bryn to hop on a plane to Bordeaux, but he didn't.


The BBC won't let me watch anything, but S4C allowed me to watch this.

Christmas Day

Well, just like in the old days, the kids got us up. We'd opened our presents on Christmas Eve as you do in France, but we also had little stockings with bits and bobs in. Then the rush to get the table ready for lunch.

Some genius had had the idea to have a raclette for lunch - I think it was a collective decision - so there wasn't a vast amount of cooking to do beforehand. We'd bought too much charcuterie, some chicken pieces, too much cheese and so we boiled too many potatoes.

For an apero we opened a bottle of Lillet someone gave us and which we'd been saving for just this kind of day, and we had crisps and cashew nuts. To accompany the meal we had some French cider, barely alcoholic but sweet, light and fruity - not at all like English cider.

For dessert we had some mince pies, of course, but this time made with home-made pastry and home-made mincemeat. I tried someone's secret that they'd shared with me years ago and used self-raising flour in the pastry. It worked very well. We also had some Christmas ice-cream that I'd made according to a recipe I found, consisting of:

2 cups of whipping cream (I used the thickest cream and thinned it a little with milk)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk.
1 cup of mincemeat, made a little runny by added liquid - orange juice or whatever...

You whip the cream to stiff peaks. Then you add the condensed milk and whip again. Then you mix in the mincemeat and freeze overnight.

This improbably easy recipe resulted in a really good soft frozen ice-cream that was light and tasted of Christmas.

Our friends arrived and we ate our main course, then played Uno, Jungle Speed and Dobble before tackling dessert. The Queen's broadcast gave us a chance to have some coffee and tea. Two of our friends were from commonwealth countries, and all were from countries where Great Britain had had a historic influence (cough, cough). Then "The Great Escape" which I honoured by doing off in the middle.

A fine Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Some Bach for Christmas

If we decide to retire to Britain

will there be language courses so we can understand whatever strange tongue you are speaking now?

"I didn’t hear any edition of the Today programme this week, due to deciding recently that it harshed what little zen I possess too early in the morning."

On the discipline of rest

This time Pat and I are sleeping in our bedroom and Gwilym is sleeping on the sofa-bed in the lounge. We're sleeping a lot. A LOT! Like last night bedtime was 9pm, and we got up at about 9am.

I can't remember the last time I spent 12 hours in bed. Not even when I'm ill. Perhaps when we used to go camping and we'd go to bed with the sun. But anyway, we are certainly catching up on sleep!

I once knew a student who didn't believe in the necessity of resting or of taking a break. "I'll get plenty of rest in eternity!" they'd say.

But I think they still slept even so.

Sleep forces us to rest. If we don't sleep we quickly go nuts. And sleep is quite a subversive act. It says that we accept that we are not the centre of the world. It says that we accept that the world can survive without us. It says that we can walk away and leave things, at least for some hours.

Sleep restores us in ways we still don't fully understand. We quickly learn to appreciate sleep and to prize it highly.

It's harder to lean to appreciate taking a break, taking time off to rest.

Sometimes, like the student, we get the idea that we don't need to do that. "I'm very tired, I need to lean in and rest in Jesus!" we say to ourselves and to the world.

Well, yes, you do, and you also need to trust in Jesus and take some time to rest. When you rest in Jesus you rest in the one who would go off to quiet places to get away from people for a while and rest.

To take a break and to rest is an act of faith. And determination.

It takes discipline.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mint Spies version 1.0 and 1.1

Well I made some mint spies. Two batches thereof. This is what I learned.

1) our bin tin is very deep. More like a muffin tin really. placing mint spies in the bottom of the holes works, but it is fiddly.

2) paper cases work fine and they mean you don't have to grease the bun tin.

3) shop-bought pâte sablée (sweet shortcrust pastry) works ok but the pastry is very thin and crisp.

4) shop-bought flaky pastry (pâte feuilletée) basically doesn't work at all.

5) the mincemeat is good.

So basically I have to make some shortcrust pastry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Home made mincemeat

The French know not mincemeat.
I mean we know not even candied peel!
Suet is an issue.
So for many years we have not had mint spies at Christmas unless someone has been able to smuggle them over in their hold baggage or something.

Then this year I found a recipe.
It's not perfect.
It has suet. I substituted butter.
It has candied peel. I left it out.
It has fresh cranberries. In your dreams.
It doesn't have grated apple. I'll add some next year.

But I found some dark brown sugar, at HUGE expense in Auchan.

So basically I did my best with what I have available.
Next year I'll adjust the spices. Less cinnamon. Some ground cloves. I'll add grated apple. I'll buy one of those zester things. Above all I'll try and make the mincemeat a couple of months before Christmas, instead of a couple of days!

But we shall have pies!

StarWars The Last Jedi

A group of us went to see the film last night, and I enjoyed it very much.

Good old fashioned escapism.
Big explosions.
Hokum galore.
Cute robots.

The old words rolling into space looks so dated now.
Forty years ago I saw StarWars in Aberystwyth with a gang of folk, and Geoff Thomas was sat a couple rows behind.
I am SO CONFUSED about the war between the Empire and the Rebels.


Life has been quite busy, health has been more of an issue than usual and the ugly monster of excess fatigue has been waving to us. Last week I thought, "let's just get through this weekend, then we can flop" and we did and we can and we are.

The weekend went well. I was a bit down and unhopeful but we had good numbers for the carol service including some splendid small boys, all who introduced carols and Sylvain who preached done good and Pat was well enough to come.

Now we are taking a break. The decision was taken when during a conversation one of my supervisors/mentors/bosses/partners referred to me in passing as Mr Duracell. It might mean that I blog more, though!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

R C Sproul

I never met R C Sproul or heard him preach in person. To me he was a writer. I didn't watch his courses or listen to his sermons.

I appreciated the invitations to join Ligonier theological study cruises in Alaska or the Caribbean, though I never went and I can't imagine a universe where that would conceivably happen.

But I valued his books enormously. He was a good populariser, he could explain hard things simply. His books on the Holiness of God and on the Nativity narratives were wonderful.

His little series of short books on various topics are free in Kindle format I recommend them highly.

I thought he wrote with tremendous clarity, his "The Mystery of the Holy Spirit" is my go-to popular-level book on the subject.

Thank you, Dr Sproul, Thank you Ligonier. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hurrah! Patricia hardly coughed at all last night!

The bronchitis is really on the mend!

As for her back, well we'll see soon.

In less happy news, however, Lawrence, our rat, has a large tumour on his forelimb.
Rats are prone to tumours like these as they get elderly. He doesn't seem to be aware of it at all, and it doesn't stop him climbing all over his cage, but it does remind us that he is very unlikely to see Christmas 2018.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Expository preaching

OK. Here we go.

I began pastoral ministry in 1991as an assistant pastor in a church where preaching was consecutive, systematic and expository. Thus it was that the first Sunday I preached my passage was Mark 6:14-29, the beheading of John the Baptist. I say this just to establish that I am used to the expository method. I've never been subjected to some of the horror stories that go around, of sermons on the triumphal entry from the point of view of the donkey, the identification of the stones David had for his sling, etc. I am deeply committed to preaching the Bible and by systematic consecutive exposition. Which simply means taking a passage and explaining what it meant for the first hearers, what it means in the context of the whole Bible and what it means for those who hear today.


However, I am more than a little bothered at the moment, for the following reasons.

1) Systematic consecutive exposition of the Scriptures is not a magic method. The power does not lie in the technique or in the method applied. If we get it right, that does not automatically make it a good sermon or an effective sermon. And if we get it wrong, that does not mean the opposite. In short, we cannot rely on a method, we always have to rely on the Holy Spirit.

That's number 1.

2) We risk absolutising systematic consecutive exposition of the Sciptures.

Every now and again preachers ask, "When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell?"
Well excuse me, but we don't preach on topics do we. We preach systematic consecutive exposition of the scriptures, which means we'll never preach on hell, but we will preach on passages where Jesus teaches about hell, for example.
Now then, does that mean that it is impossible to preach on the topic of hell?
That it is wrong to preach a series on Christian basics, or family life, or whatever?
Can we say that the only type of preaching envisaged in the Bible is systematic consecutive exposition, or is preaching sometimes broader than that?
I think it is dangerous to make absolutes that are not given to us directly in scripture.

3) Preaching like a good rabbi.

Every sermon needs to have Christ at its centre. That means that we have not done our work properly if we preach a passage from the Old Testament and show how its warnings, hopes, desires, promises, its whole trajectory find their full accomplishment in Jesus. "We can always trust God" isn't christian. We have to show that "We can always trust God in Christ."

4) Not seeing the wood for the trees

You don't necessarily get at the point of a passage by talking about every detail verse by verse. And sometimes, even if you do state the point of the passage, it gets lost in detail that is entirely appropriate for reading, but not when you are trying to preach.

5) Directness

Preaching has to be direct. It's you, the preacher, speaking about very important things to your hearers. We mustn't lose in directness because we are slowly marching step by step, verse by verse, through a passage.

I'll probably add to this post.

It was better before. (c'était mieux avant)

Firstly one for travellers and ex-pats. Be aware of the golden glow of nostalgia!

This comes home to me in so many ways so often here in Bordeaux. Here's a couple of examples.

One comes from a conversation a few months ago when a British friend said, "Nobody goes hungry in England. There are no food banks in England." I quietly explained that since we left the UK in 2005 food banks have become a major activity for many of my friends and colleagues, and that some food banks are now regularly frequented by NHS nurses.

Another happened more recently and concerned bullying in schools. A French friend said how shocked they were by the bullying in England and how it isn't tolerated in France. I quietly explained that our kids were bullied in the catholic school in Pessac that they attended. "Oh, OK, I know it goes on in the catholic schools" and then how a friend's son in a state school in a suburb of Bordeaux came home one day and said "Today was a good day, nobody hit me today."

What's going on? I think it's the golden glow of nostalgia. We don't remember things properly. We forget the bad (thankfully) and remember all that was good and happy.

Mrs Davey's condition is improving

The strong medicines and injections are helping to calm her lower back spasms, and her coughing is better too, helped by the antibiotics, expectorant etc.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The doctor cometh

I woke to find that Mrs Davey had left a note asking me to call the doctor and ask them to call round, and to cancel her physiotherapy appointment for this morning. The doctor just came and prescribed LOTS of things - injections each evening, amoxicillin for the cough, I'll need to take a carrier bag to the pharmacy.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The answer, my friend, is running in the wind

Well it's warmer, at least, but this morning we were back to more normal December weather of driving rain and blustery wind.

To be honest it wasn't raining that much. More a question of puddles and dampness, and I do pretty well in dampness. But the wind was annoying because all the uphill section of my habitual run (I did the short version this morning) you are running into the wind. But not only that, for some reason the good burgers of Pessac had decided that this was the night to forget to fasten their gates, so all the way I was subjected to the noise of sudden slamming. It was just like running through a horror film. I expected some monster to appear round the corner at any moment.

None did, thankfully!

We had these super-duper cheap and cheerful running bands, you know, like fitbits, but the Chinese version. They were really good, though Mrs Davey's always found it hard to connect to her phone. Mine worked OK. Till I changed my phone. Then it just wouldn't connect to the new one. I followed LOTS of instructions, including letting the battery run down and storing it in the fridge (not the freezer!) for a few days. Nothing worked. In the end I ordered a new one from China, this one's even more super-duper and still as cheap and cheerful. Well if I get over a year out of it I suppose that's not bad really, is it?

Mrs Davey's health

To her continued back problem, sometimes improving only to know sudden deterioration once more, is added a nasty, dry, hacking, loud cough. She's not very well and struggling to be very happy.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Bus fun

Yesterday I had two big appointments, the first with the insurance company to ask four questions. We addressed the question from hardest to easiest and got everything done quite quickly. I noticed that we had a discretionary discount of 15% but said nothing until the final figure turned out to be cheaper than I expected.

"La différence n'est pas énorme."
"Oui, j'ai fait un geste."

faire un geste doesn't just mean to wave your arms around. It also means giving someone a small discretionary discount, or throwing something else in free or whatever.

My next big appointment was with a chap who's a friend, but who smokes. A lot. I'm still struggling with the asthma a little, so I thought I'd better phone him and cancel. He took it OK.

It gave me the chance to hop on bus 4 to the big shopping centre, stock up on bananas and beans and also get my public transport season ticket renewed at the same time. You can renew online up till about 15 days before the expiry date. My renewal is due on 9 December and so I systematically forget to renew because by the time December comes it's too late.

In the evening was the first of the "Excuse my English" events at the "Excuse my French Café" in the quartier Saint Michel. it went very well though a number of us arrived later than intended because it was raining heavily so all the traffic went nuts.

Our team, The Botanists, won the quiz.
I wish I were not so COMPETITIVE!!! It's a nightmare.
Still the prize slice of cheesecake was delicious.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

On the death of Jean d'Ormesson and of Johnny Halliday

Yesterday we heard that Jean d'Ormesson had died. He was a well-born Frenchman (hence the d'). His full name was Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d'Ormesson. He became an author, the editor of the Figaro for a few years and was the longest-serving member of the Académie Française.

I got used to seeing him interviewed on the television and noticed him because he spoke openly, freely and warmly of his belief in God. He was a real charmer, always smiling, always witty. They said of him that he loved life, loved women and never took himself seriously. He himself said that as a young man he loved to have a girlfriend but what women loved most about him was breaking up with him, so he lurched from one broken heart to another.

He had a major row with his father, who saw him as a worthless lout, and it remained so painful that he couldn't speak about it even as an elderly man.

I have no idea really of the content of his faith, but I liked the tone of what he said about God.

Believing in God is so much simpler than not believing in him, and it's much more encouraging. You'd be wrong to deprive yourself!

And again, from another legend, Bernard Pivot:

- Si Dieu existe, qu'aimeriez-vous l'entendre vous dire après votre mort ? - Entre, pauvre imbécile, m'avait répondu Jean d'Ormesson.

"If God exists, what would you like to hear from him after your death?"
"Come in, poor fool" answered Jean d'Ormesson.

I'm glad there are people like him.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The choir concert

Last night the choir took part in a charity concert at the church in Pessac.

It was a bitterly cold night. We were assured the heating was on. So were our coats.

After a brief warm-up and some jiggery-pokery with the small, inadequate electric piano we sat down for the speeches. There are always speeches.

Then we were off. Our programme included the choral movements of BWV4 - Christ lag in Todesbanden, as well as the last movement of the Vasks mass and Fauré's incredibly popular Cantique de Jean Racine.

There was a brief moment in this movement where I was aware that the tenors on my left and the sopranos on my right were not in synch. It felt like being in a skidding car. We were slewing off. What do you do? I stuck to the conductor like a limpet and after just a couple of bars we were all back together again. I guess everyone had done the same.

People applauded the Fauré on its announcement as well as on its conclusion. I, however, sight-sang it last week and then learnt it on the train home from Paris!

Friday, December 01, 2017

The internet is back, and so am I

On Monday I left our poor disconnected flat, our pirated church website that directed folk to a pornography site and went off to Paris for a Prêche la Parole conference. Somewhat modelled on the Proc Trust preaching workshops, it was to be held at the Baptist Church in Rue de Sèvres in the middle of Paris, just a short walk from the Gare Montparnasse and so on.

We now have our super-duper high speed train link from Bordeaux to Paris, but not yet to CENTRAL Paris, so I took the Ouigo TGV to Massy. It cost 32 euros and took two hours. 

Massy TGV station is intimidating.

To get to central Paris you have to buy a ticket from the machine and take a RER train. I say the machine because there were several lonely, quiet machines for tickets for the "grandes lignes" but only one for the local lines. Its as very popular. I queued for 30 minutes in order to buy my ticket.

Then about an hour of marvelling at the Paris suburbs brought me into Montparnasse and I walked the rest of the way.

The conference was generally useful, focusing on preaching Christ from the Old Testament, specifically from Daniel, and it was good to see friends old and new from all over francophone Europe and one from Africa. The main speaker was the splendid Vaughan Roberts, the Welsh pastor at St Ebbe's in Oxford.

I was hosted by a super couple in the north-west of Paris in their flat where they live with their four daughters. Navigating the Metro proved to be easier than I feared as they, too, lived about an hour away.

For my return journey I could buy a combined metro and train ticket very quickly so I was soon hustled off back to Massy to drink a rather expensive coffee (2,50€ for a café allongé!) in a splendid new brasserie before stretching out in my 10€ Ouigo back to Bordeaux.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What a week - I HATE computers

Firstly we decided to switch everyone from the cheap and cheerful but it doesn't work very well mobile phone operator to a rival that actually costs the same but work a whole lot better. When you do that you lose your mobile phone number while they switch you across. So we've had first Pat, then Catrin, then me unobtainable by mobile phone for a day or two.

THEN, they decided to come and fix the mobile phone cabinet outside the block of flats. It was largely demolished by a car crash last Christmas Eve but was functioning fine. Every now and again someone would come and look, then go away again, but on Monday some guys came, laid the box flat and redid the base. At 5pm everyone's internet was cut off, taking all television and telephones with it. It isn't yet restored to working order.

THEN on Thursday I was told that our website had been hacked such that if you search for "Bordeaux Church" in Google you get sent to a porn site. The guy who built our website has looked into it and assured himself that the website is fine, in working order and has no problem, but still if you go to it via Google you end up on the porn site.

Those good old days were great, huh!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Is it an improvement? Hard to say...

On Monday I got home to see a van parked outside the flats and two men working on the telephone cabinet. This is the large metal structure that holds all the telecommunication gubbins for the flats. Last Christmas Eve, a wet day, a car skidded the white lines outside the flat and knocked the cabinet over into the fence and bushes behind. They'd come to fix it, at last!

At 5 I noticed our internet service was cut. I looked outside. The telecoms cabinet, previously leaning, was now lying flat on its side. I phoned the internet provider, who confirmed that the internet, tv and phone was cut off for all the residents of our block of flats. It may take 8 days to get it back, worst case scenario, quoth she.

Oh well. It's made life kind of peaceful!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

We're having some beautiful days

but there are nasty viruses going round. We've all caught a brief ninja head cold. Mine lasted half a day, Pat and Catrin had a couple of days of misery.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A year of Trump and six months of Macron.

I just thought it should be marked in some way.

November frosts!

It is COLD in Pessac. Very cold.

And there is this ninja head-cold going round.

It gets you suddenly, hits you very hard indeed, then leaves as suddenly as it arrived.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A new name

The internet salesman wrote my name on his form.

"ALAIN - Alain, it's that, yes?"

"No, Alan - A L A N."

He scrubbed out the I.

"A second forename?"


So it is that for the purposes of our telephonic communications now I am called M. Alain-Thomas d'Avey.

I think it's easier to change my name than to change the system.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs

I managed to get through to the Royal Bank of Scotland on the phone number they gave me. The charming lady who answered was not Scottish. I explained our situation.

"Oh, we don't need any documents for people living in France. Just send your French tax number."

So it's all sorted out. Phew!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Here we go again

In 2013 I had a long exchange of correspondence with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the upshot of which was to establish that I am truly and completely fiscally resident in France, with no UK income and no tax liability. It took some months to establish this to everyone's satisfaction but I received several letters from different tax officers, sometimes all on the same day, all agreeing to and affirming this.

Now then. We have a bank account with Virgin One which was our main account until we left the UK in 2005. I loved this bank account very much. I wish there was a similar thing in France. When we left the UK we didn't close the account and we currently have £5 in it. I hope that if one day we return to the UK we can simply continue with that account as we did before.

Then they sent me a form to fill in to show that I am fiscally resident in France. It demanded strange things, like a photocopy of a passport issued by a foreign country and endorsed with a stamp from a UK consulate. I don't have a passport from a foreign country (yet). They helpfully supplied a phone number if you needed help. I dialled it. I got no response. I called Virgin One. "Oh, that form is nothing to do with us. It's RBS."

I considered that for the sake of £5 and having had official confirmation from several of her majesty's officers that I am fiscally resident in France I had done all I could reasonably do. But no. I am being chased up. So I shall write them a letter to enclose with my form.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Well I don't know what went wrong with bus 4 yesterday

Pat and I met Catrin at 4 for tea and cake at Horace, then after buying a book as a gift for someone we went to wait for the bus 4 home.

"Is that snow?"

"I don't know. It's something."

It wasn't snow, but it could have been. The evening was dark and cold and the rain was falling heavily. Still, we wouldn't have long to wait. There's a bus 4 every ten minutes.

"It says 12 minutes."

People said they had already been waiting a long time. We decided to walk to the previous stop, where the warmth from the engine of a waiting bus 15 gave us some welcome cheer.

"Now it says 4 minutes."

6 minutes passed.

Eventually a wave of excitement came across the little crowd at the bus stop. Here it came! The bus 4!

We squirmed on with the other folk. Somehow the seat right at the front was free. I sat in it to occupy it for Pat who was following me, but the bus got so full we couldn't change place.

"We've been waiting half-an-hour. Two were due but never came."

Everyone got on board, but at the next stop people were too numerous. "I'm shutting the doors", said the driver. There came some furious hammering. It was someone handicapped with their carer. The driver let them on and they squeezed in somehow.

Pat recognised a chap with Downs syndrome who often sings on the bus. A couple of minutes later he started up. It was party time in the crowded bus.

We wondered where people would get off. Palais de Justice? No. La Médoquine where there's lots of flats. No. Almost everyone stayed on till Pessac Centre, where they were replaced by collégiens and lycéens.

Ours was the next stop. We got off, thankful to be home briefly before charging out to take bus 4 again to Pessac Alouette.

There's a bus 4 every ten minutes. We waited 25.

Some music for Thursday

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Running in November - It gets COLD!

Oh boy was it cold this morning. I had on a nice thick tee-shirt, "lounge pants", a sweatshirt and a tubular hat for my head, but my eyes still watered with the cold.

I want to increase my distance bit by bit, but this was not the morning to do that.

At the doctor's

My doctor is great, but a bit ... strong.

She copes with my stoic approach to minor illness, but she does protest a little: "Il faut toujours venir me voir. Il faut toujours venir me voir..."

This was when I confessed that I'd had a couple of spots of shingles but that after a couple of weeks they cleared up.

"That's fatigue", she said.

"Yes, I had too many late nights."

We discussed bedtime, breakfast time and running for a couple of seconds while she played darts with my arm and a 'flu jab.

I would have given you something to make it less painful and long.


She did my prescription for my life-giving herbs and potions.

I looked at it.

"I'm going to have trouble with the pharmacist."


"Because the one thing is "for six months" but the other doesn't say anything. If I go to the distant pharmacy where they know me they do it anyway, but the nearest pharmacy won't do it."

She changed the prescription, to my great relief.

I'm going to stop typing now because my dartboard arm is sore!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Changing to fibre-optic

This salesman called on all the flats from Bouygues Telecom telling us about this super-duper deal on  installing fibre-optic internet in our flat, and since all the cabling was already in place it would be really easy, and it was at a bargain price, and so on and so forth.

After a couple of days deliberating I decided to go ahead with it. That was back in September, I think, and the technician called today to set it all up.

And there we are! Fast internet, cheaper than we were paying before, and with a nice, elegant little box instead of the humungous white blunderbuss we had.

Friday, November 03, 2017


The other evening Pat and I were walking home from the tram stop at about 22:30 or thereabouts.

As we walked through the quiet streets we heard the owls hooting again as they hunt over the vineyards.

"If we lived in the centre of the city we probably wouldn't hear the owls in the evenings."

A little further on we heard a strange bird sound coming from up above. There was a big tree, but it wasn't coming from there. As we squinted a little we finally saw a flight of cranes going overheard, heading south for winter.

"If we'd driven home in a car we wouldn't have seen or heard them."

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Inscrutable. No, like, I mean it's REALLY HARD!!!

You stare at computer screens and barely understand one word in 10.

Announcements in trains only make any sense at all because of the context and the place names.

Menus are not really a problem because most things we encountered were either a variant on bangers and mash or escalope of pork or veal (Schnitzel is an escalope in breadcrumbs).

Pronunciation is phonetic and regular but it's still utterly baffling. And hard to get your mouth round.

But I did make two minor victories.

One evening I ordered two small glasses of red wine, and later explained that I wanted Montepulciano. Zwei Achtel von Rotwein. Montepulciano.

The following day I reflected, planned, rehearsed and ordered two small glasses of Montepulciano with a bit more finesse. Guten Abend. Zwei Achtel von Montepulciano bitte. Danke schön.

So glad to get back to the Francophonia!


It's all happening, isn't it!

500th anniversary of the posting of Luther's 95 theses.
I finally got to open my PlayMobil Luther figure.
And we put the clocks back an hour.

It's a good job that today is a public holiday in France to allow us to get over all the excitement.

Toussaint, All Saints' Day, is the big deal here, and outside the cemeteries there'll be lots of stalls selling potted chrysanthemums for people to buy and place on the graves of their loved ones. Chrysanthemums are good because they are pretty hardy.

But because it's a public holiday the streets are very quiet. The number 42 bus that turns the corner just outside our flat doesn't run on Sundays or public holidays, so it gives us a real sense of stillness.

I went for my run earlier and nothing was moving at all. No sound of cars in the distance. Just stillness. And of course my clump, clump, clump and the Schubert going round and round in my head.

November 1st is also the day it gets cold in Bordeaux, usually. This year I turned the heating on last Sunday, though. Two or three days early.

For me it's a day of admin. I have LOTS of that to do. Some is in French legalese that will be tough and tiring. Oh well... The sooner I tackle it the sonner it will be done.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Return from Teisendorf

We just got back from the International Christian Communities of Eurasia Pastors' Retreat (there's so much in that title...) at Teisendorf in Bavaria.

I'll report more fully later, but first impressions:

German is almost totally unintelligible. I'm pretty good with languages, but honestly...

German people are adorable. Pleasant, helpful, friendly but discreet - almost shy.

Bavaria is gorgeous. Just beautiful.

Pork and ham is ubiquitous. Breakfast, lunch and dinner could always involve some kind of pig product. Hence my song of the week: "Schwein in the Morning, Schwein in the Evening, Schwein at Supper-Time"

Oh, and I crossed off something from my bucket list.

I ate (a half of) a slice of Sachertorte in Salzburg, with a very good big black coffee.

Some photos of Munich and Teisendorf


Don Quixote guards the tomb of Dulcinea

La neige éternelle

Pigmeat for breakfast, lunch and dinner lost its novelty quite quickly

I was fancy, and ate my egg from the egg-cup

Farewell to Teisendorf

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


These little plaques commemorate those murdered by the Nazis.

I was glad to eat some Sachertorte in Salzburg.
I have yet to eat Linzertorte and

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Greetings from Teisendorf

in beautiful Bavaria just over the border from Salzburg!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The long trek

Today Mrs Davey and I leave for Teisendorf in Germany.

The journey involves:

Sunday morning leave with all bags for:

Brethren service of inauguration of renovated building.
Bumper festive lunch
Bordeaux Church at 5

then bus to airport to stay in nearby hotel overnight.

Monday leave on 7am flight to Munich. Arrive at 9.

All day to explore Munich. Then train to Teisendorf (15 minutes from Salzburg.)

Arrive in time for dinner tomorrow.

Here's the rub. Mrs Davey currently has one of her back problems and can't carry anything much at all or walk very far. AND she's very stiff first thing in the morning.

We appreciate your prayers!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bordeaux Church has a new website

the address is the same, but it has had a make-over (in French, a relooking)



I have shingles. I've had it a couple of weeks. I'm due to go and see the doctor in early November, so if it hasn't cleared up by then I'll ask her opinion.

UK health websites tell you it might clear up in a couple of weeks, and that you need to see the doctor if the vesicles are near your eyes.

In my case I have four red, raised itchy spots, perfectly symmetrically arranged, one on each shoulder blade and another on each side further down my back.

Autumn has come to Pessac

bringing dampness, drizzle, russet tones to the trees, much moss in the grass and milder temperatures.

Even BEFORE we open our mouths

we walked silently into the coffee shop.

"Hallo, you are not French, yes?"

"ben, non, mais on vit ici, on habite à Pessac"... (um, no, but we live here, we live in Pessac)

"I knew you were not French just by looking at you..."

OK, we were with a Chinese person, and I guess you could tell they were not French, but even for them it's a bit of an assumption to make...

Oh well. Despite my imposing, deGaulle nose, the baguette under the arm, the beret and the cigarette hanging our of my mouth, I STILL don't look French...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A real conversation, remembered and translated from the French

At the Maison de la Bible, a tall elegant couple in their fifties comes to the counter. The lady speaks:

Lady: Do you have any French translations of the whole Bible that date from before the Council of Nicea?

Alan takes deep breath and remembers to try to avoid mansplaining: OK, well you know that at the time of the Council of Nicea the French language didn't exist, everyone spoke Greek or Latin. But the translations we have here are all based on Greek and Hebrew texts that have been edited from copies that date from before the Council of Nicea.

Lady: The thing is that at the Council of Nicea the Vatican suppressed the text in the Bible that speaks of reincarnation.

Alan: We have Bibles here from Roman Catholic publishers and from Protestant publishers who are not at all influenced by the Vatican or the Roman Catholic Church. (Thinks) Have you ever seen this little book, The transmission of the Bible. (Thankfully the lady bought the book)

Lady: Do you have any books that speak about the suppression of the text that speaks of reincarnation in the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Nicea?

Alan: I don't know of any publisher, either Christian or secular, that would publish serious books about that. That kind of thing is spread by the internet, and you will find websites that talk about that and more. But if you like, why not go to Mollat, France's largest bookshop and speak to Arnaud in the religion section. If anything exists in French along those lines, he will know.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some reflections on TED at Bordeaux

The TED event at the Cité du Vin started at 14h and we were requested to be on time. Meanwhile at about 12h30 there was a technical problem with Tram B that meant that no trams were running between Peixotto and Quinconces - a HUGE stretch of the line that runs to the Cité du Vin. Thankfully I was already in the city centre, so after spending some time at the LutherFest I was able to trot down to Quinconces, ride the tram to the Cité du Vin and eat a sandwich fit for a king on the terrace of the Cité du Vin cafeteria. Incidentally this café is very reasonably priced and nicely located just alongside the river, and the BatCUB stops there. End of advertisement...

The theme was "Mais qu'est-ce que tu crois?", and I was quite intrigued at what might be presented, so once I was comfortably full of salad, chicken, curry sauce and bread I climbed the stairs to the auditorium and settled myself down. I won't give you a blow by blow account, but there were fourteen speakers - in French, "les speakers" - who each had about 18 minutes on subjects like "Why you should only believe what science tells you, including the multiverse", "An introduction to meditation" (we were told to remove our shoes and feel the energy of mother earth entering through our feet - an effect diminished when you're on the first floor of the cité du vin), "Animal welfare law", "How our musical tastes change", "Fasting", "Intuition" and "How I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy" - this one opened the show and was delivered with admirable aplomb by a remarkable ten-year-old girl. 

The speakers had been working on their talks for six months, aided by coaches and they all did really well, though some with more fluency than others. One guy, talking about being an environmentally sensitive smallholder, was a real barnstormer, but then he's a YouTuber and has an extraordinarily wonderful speaking gift. 

It shows you the power and attraction of the simple spoken word. Many of the talks had no visual aids and yet almost every seat in the 250 seat auditorium was filled and 750 people actually applied for tickets. 

It also shows how easily we can put together a huge variety of approaches to a broad theme, like "But what do you believe?" without worrying too much about presenting an overall coherence of approach, without needing to hold together any over-arching world view. Some of the talks could have clashed, but now Such clashes have become impossible because we no longer seek a coherent vision of reality. 

Well, one kind of talk would have clashed, I think. Any talk that was in any way theist. The meditation talk was "spiritual" and the intuition talk was going in that direction, too. But even the talk on fasting managed to mention Aristotle, Socrates and Pythagoras as being committed fasters, but left out Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I mean, how can you talk about fasting in France in 2017 and not talk about Ramadan? Easy-peasy. Watch me do it.

Despite technical issues with the coffee machine, the interval snacks were delicious as were the "cocktail" snacks served at the end of the afternoon. I needed some coffee half-way through to keep me from the land of nod. I chatted with a Chinese woman who thought I was French, until a waiter came by with something, I said "Merci" and he said "You're welcome." "You see", I told her, "one word is all it takes and everyone knows I'm British."

LutherFest500 photo

This is the Maison de la Bible stand for the LutherFest500 with the weekend organiser, Pamela, putting the final touches to the display.

The screen is showing the much-appreciated Playmobil film of Luther's life, with no sound but subtitles in French. I was a little concerned about showing the film as it is somewhat critical of the Roman Catholic Church in Luther's day, and the MB stand was situated right at the main entrance to the cathedral. But hey!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

TedxBordeaux and the LutherFest

Ted talks are coming to Bordeaux this weekend, from 2pm at the Cité du Vin. I applied for a ticket and my name was pulled from the hat! The theme is "Qu'est-ce que tu crois?" (what do you believe) so it will be fascinating to see how the theme is addressed.

At the same time it is the weekend of the Bordeaux Lutherfest, much reduced from how I imagined it, there is a cluster of municipal festival tents around the corner of the Cathedral. The Maison de la Bible will be there, along with the Gideons. We had planned to share a stand, but instead we have been separated from each other and placed with other groups - us with the Adventist Youth and someone else, the Gideons with other folk. We were surprised to see two other bookshops present - a stand from the publisher Olivetan and a bookshop from Toulouse. Both have links with the Eglise Protestante Unie de France, the historic protestant church.

The LutherFest will be celebrating Protestant social action.

On the Maison de la Bible stand there will be a loop of the Playmobil Luther film with French subtitles. There'll also be a small model printing press and Gutenberg-style Bible verses to frame and display. There'll also be our friend, Myriam, the story-teller, telling the story fo Mary Jones and her Bible, as well as books at various levels telling the story of Luther and his rediscovery of the way of salvation.

I had tickets for a recital of Bach Cello works but it clashed with our Bible Study so I gave them to someone else.

There was also an excellent choral concert yesterday evening, but I had to give that a miss, too.

I have tickets for a lecture advertised as being on "Luther - adventurer of the faith", but the title has been changed to "The Protestants 500 years on." which doesn't interest me at all.

I have tickets for a theological debate on Sunday afternoon. We'll see if I get to that!

It's one of those weekends where lots of things are happening all at the same time.


We get screened for all kinds of things, sometimes annually, sometimes less frequently, and yesterday  we got screened for age-related hearing and visual problems. To do this we had to go quite early to the Beaulieu centre, one of the diocesan centres of the Roman Catholic Church (or as we say in France, "the church"), quite near Gwilym and Catrin's lycées just inside the boulevards.

The Beaulieu Centre looks like a renovated urban monastery, with a small cloisters and a little fountain in the middle, surrounded by rooms of various sizes, one of which is used as a restaurant and cafeteria. Another was used for a waiting room and still others for eye and hearing tests.

The hearing test involved listening to imaginary sounds via headphones and pressing the button when you think a tone might reasonably be expected to have begun.

The eye test checked peripheral vision, reactivity to light, near and far adjustment, all that kind of thing. 

Mrs Davey is very excited because she has less high frequency age-related hearing-loss than I do in her left ear. Yes, maybe, but she doesn't have a dodgy left ear from being clouted by an irascible history teacher in 1974.

I was impressed to be screened just before the Cardinal Archbishop of Bordeaux, who I would happily have greeted if I could have remembered how one is meant to greet Cardinal Archbishops in French. Another thing they didn't teach us at the language school!

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Two churches in Bordeaux seem to have rebranded themselves in the past couple of months.

For the first church, one of our local pentecostal churches, I am sure, because there was a special service devoted to the rebranding. Previously the name was very geographically determined, very static. Now the name implies impetus, movement and also, according to the explanation, that decisive instant where everything changes.

The second church is one of the catholic churches. They all have historic names, as does this church, but it recently has started pop-masses on Sunday evenings led by Bordeaux' foremost Roman Catholic worship band, and have rebranded themselves as the Church of Bordeaux Centre.

Interesting, eh?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I am reliably told that the best coffee in Bordeaux is to be found in a tiny coffee shop called "Blacklist", just by the Hotel de Ville tram stop.

I went there once. You sit on designer boxes, in a row, using other designer boxes for tables. I never went back.

The guys who ran Blacklist have added another string to their bow : Horace. The café that used to be "Les Mots Bleus" and sold a small range of books as well as decent drinks, snacks and lunches, has been redecorated, rebranded, renamed and relaunched as Horace : café, cuisine, canons.

It's a great place. The coffee is very good. The cakes are awesome. The breakfasts and lunches look very good, too. One day this week for breakfast they advertised brioche perdu accompanied by fresh fruit. It looked wonderful.

And they are accommodating. We are launching an independent international reading group, a small group of folks who'll read a novel a month and meet up to discuss it. I asked in one bookshop/café if we could meet there. "We'll get back to you." They didn't. I went back and asked again. "OK, but we want you to buy the books here, and six people tops because the café is small" (and we need to keep it empty was the silent implication...)

I asked in Horace. "Yes, of course!" And if there are ten people? "Of course! What's the difference between ten people on one table and ten people spread through the café?"

I didn't mention their carrot cake. I doubt if I've had a better carrot cake anywhere.

Oh yes, and it's named after my father.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Apostolic visit over

So we had our episcopal visit from Rhys and Jane a couple of weeks ago.

Then this weekend, our ... apostolic visit?

William Brown, Deputy Director of United For Mission (UFM) arrived on Saturday afternoon and left Monday lunchtime. We had time to talk, time to eat, time to walk round the chateau gardens and time for Bordeaux Church, before we said our fond farewells and consigned William to the air.

Friday, October 06, 2017


"In spite of autumn it's still hellish. Testmonies (for subscribers) in this morning' s Sud-Ouest."

It's true, too. One little horror last Friday got me right on the elbow where the movement of your arm drives their nasty enzymes into the surrounding tissues. My arm became inflamed over an radius of about 9" and made everyone who saw me wince.

Applications of ibuprofen gel and antihistamine cream have driven the inflammation down but my arm is still sore and a little swollen.

But that's nothing really. In the photo is the tiger mosquito, which has recently moved into our area. It spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika.

TED talks

TEDx is coming to Bordeaux. You could apply for a seat. I did. I was allotted one by ballot. You have to pay for it, of course. But I get to go and spend an afternoon and evening at the Cité du Vin listening to TED speakers. I am awestruck. I'll take lots of notes. Who knows! It may revolutionise my preaching again!

Macron's naughty words

President Macron came to power saying that he wanted to restore the prestige of the presidential office after the last two rather unprestigious presidents, little president Sarkozy with his potty-mouth and his actress-singer consort and again little president Hollande with his nocturnal liaisons by scooter.

A jupiterian president, with dignity and class befitting his power. His elegant wife won Trump's approval for her physical condition ("just beautiful") and there's no doubt that she is a great support to him.

But he does have a rather earthy turn of phrase sometimes.

Instead of the expression he used, shown in the tweet from the Sud-Ouest, he could have said "semer la pagaille" or any one of a number of less ... pungent things.

And lest we think it is a problem of vocabulary, let us remember that President Macron is married to a French teacher. We can safely conclude that if anyone has ever come close to mastering the language of Molière - vain hope - at least he has flown nearer to that sun than most of us.

Why this seeming incoherence between his desire to restore a seemly presidency and his somewhat direct manner of speaking? I think there's a couple of reasons.

Firstly, and I know I risk sounding like a boring old duffer if I say this, but our politicians are generally a rather uninspiring lot at the moment, aren't they. I rather like Macron, but he wouldn't have to do a lot to stand out from the crowd! This is what things are like in our western democracies at the moment. We don't have a lot of presidential people, despite our strong culture of leadership. I am tempted to say because of our strong culture of leadership, but that's another story.

Secondly, there is a genuine difference between British and French culture when it comes to ... polite speech. In fact I still remember how shocked I was in about 1980 to hear a very polite Londoner say that runners looked "knackered". This was not a word we used amongst strangers in South Wales. Americans use words that British people consider impolite, vulgar or just plumb rude and in French many coarse words are used by ordinary people every day.

It's just different.

I can't imagine that Theresa May came off stage after her historic speech at the Tory Conference Party and used the kind of language to her husband in private in a furious outburst that Macron used calmly on microphone at the factory. She probably just doesn't ever speak like that.

Macron does. As one of the teachers at our language school once said, "Les gros mots, je les réserve pour les grandes occasions!" I keep naughty words for high days and holidays.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Missional visit

A couple weeks ago we had an episcopal visit from Rhys and Jane.

This coming weekend we have a missional visit from the Deputy Director of UFM Worldwide, William Brown.

It will be good to see him!


I don't often post about politics. Not since that which shall not be named. It's all very emotive, divisive and destructive. But it does seem to me that things are a bit of a shambles just now! Pretty much everywhere! What a mess!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mission Week recuperation

Well the OMFrance7 left on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Monday morning. They left a gaping hole but fatigue was waiting to fill it up!

So Monday was basically a quiet day. We needed shopping. Pat's back is playing up. Pat said we could get through to Tuesday. I rejoiced. I caught up on whatever emails didn't require any thought to process. You get the picture.

Now then... We've had a project for a while of starting an Independent Free International Reading Group in some café or other of Bordeaux. I'd sounded out some folk. I'd talked to a café or two. A splendid place called Horace said they'd be happy to have us. I tentatively talked about the first Tuesday of October.

But then came mission week. I did nothing to prepare. Nothing at all. Neither could I. We'll knock it into touch until November, thought I.

But unbeknown to me emails were circulating and a little group were intending to come.

So we met and had an interesting time talking about Hilary Mantel's piece in the Guardian about the death of Diana: about wit, malice, British and French Catholicism, the morals of the aristocracy, grief, national feeling, all sorts...

There we are - it's launched!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mission week

A super team.
Good weather.
Pleasant folk.
Good food.
So far all good.

Wahay! Day off!

I usually take Monday as my day off and Pat and I embark on adventures and explorations around Bordeaux. This week Monday was busy, but we have a day off today and... we're off to a concert at the Opera House.

The awesome Marc Minkovsky has a production of La Vie Parisienne running just now - I haven't yet dared to look at the price of tickets - BUT yesterday on twitter I saw that the tenor lead is doing a lunchtime recital. These lunchtime concerts are a real bargain so they sell out quickly, but I tried for two seats and got them!


Sunday, September 24, 2017

OM Team


Fine people from USA, France, England, Canada.

The hazards of running - update

Mrs Davey has a flare-up of her back problem.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The hazards of running

Falling over : Mrs Davey fell over this morning. She thinks there is only superficial injury, thankfully.

Episcopal visitation

We have had an episcopal visitation from Rhys and Jane Morgan over the past few days:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Back to running

It was good to be back pouring the paths again...

A little punctuated by my unsettled asthma, but it'll improve.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

New academic year, new printer cartridges

For some time I have been using "compatible" printer cartridges.

Everything I print in colour has been less and less well rendered over time, to the point where everything had an unpleasant blueish tinge.

It was time to splash out on some genuine Canon printer cartridges and see what that does.

And I am happy to say that the results are positive. We have yellows, reds and greens once more!

Now I need to stock up on paper.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some pretty music from Praetorius

Let's hope I can just be ill and get it over with!

For a little while my asthma has been unsettled... Noisy breathing, especially at night...
In the meantime I've developed a chronically runny nose!
Then I THINK I have a little outbreak of shingles - little itchy spots here and there.
(When I had some before the doctor said it was that.)

I think I know what the problem is - too many evenings out doing this, that and the other.

I can't work morning, noon and night any more. I have to take a break now and again, and sadly at the rentrée it is sometimes not possible.

Usually when I have some little health niggle I do what British people do all over the world. I ignore it and hope it goes away. But yesterday I decided to mention it to a couple people.

"Ah, you need a break", said one person.

Well we might take a little breakette, perhaps, at the beginning of October, just after Mission Week.

Meanwhile, ha!

Last night Pat and I had an evening in alone. Yay!
We decided to have an early night. Yay!

Then at midnight she received a text message which woke us both up.

Pat slept fitfully after that.
I eventually got up, drank some camomile, ate an apple and went back to bed and to sleep at 4:30.

This morning the good news is that I have a headache! So I'm hoping I can break out in a good old cold and have done with it.

Meanwhile the morning, noon and night thing should come to an end soon, and I'm boosting my vitamin intake in the meantime!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Preaching the incarnation

It's not easy, is it, and the beginner preacher can get into some rather sticky situations.
Here's some thoughts:

1) It isn't easy and I don't think our task is necessarily to make it look easy to talk about the incarnation. The degree of unease and discomfort that people see can reinforce what we're talking about; people can see and hear that we are somewhat outranked by the truth that we're struggling to convey.

2) Be familiar with the classic systematic formulations. For example, the definition of Chalcedon really helps if you will think about it and master it, or rather allow what it expresses to master you:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence , not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God , the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The vocabulary is a little challenging, but the basis of what they are saying is pretty clear:

One person, one soul, one body, just like us. But with two natures.

He is a real 100% human being, a man just like us but without sin.

He is also God, really 100% God, still being all that God is.

But there is just one "he", and it isn't like playing roles or transforming from one to the other and back.

There are no analogies because nothing else is like this.
Just like for the Trinity, there are no analogies because nothing else is like this.

We can find illustrations. For example I am Welsh and I live in Bordeaux. When I speak French you can tell there's something different about me, but you may not know what it is. From time to time, though, you can really tell that I am Welsh. But I'm always Welsh, whether you can see it or not, and my Welshness is not something I turn on and off. Usually. Anyway, as I said, there are no analogies, but sometimes we can find illustrations that may perhaps help a little.

3) Think about what he left behind when he became man. What did he leave behind, really?

4) Think about what he took on when he became man. What did he add in his humanity?

5) Think about words that we use. Some words can provoke a strong reaction. Don't necessarily avoid them, but be ready to explain what you mean and why you use that word.

for example, weak. It is clear that Jesus took on human weakness. What is weaker than a new-born infant? What is weaker than a thirsty man sat by a well with nothing with which to draw water? But ordinary, human, physical weakness does not necessarily imply moral weakness, weakness of character or weakness of judgement.

6) Remember that making a slip doesn't make you a false teacher. We learn from our slips and errors and struggle to try to find the right words to explain the inexpressible. False teachers deliberately try to gain a following for their novelties. It's different.

7) Don't get hamstrung by your own inability to fully understand. Luke records Paul saying "(ESV) care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" while warning against false teachers. I know that among the elders listening to Paul there were probably none of the heresy-hunters that might take you on, so perhaps you do need to exercise care, but it would be a crying shame to fall short of preaching the wonder of the voluntary self-humiliation of the glorious Son of God because you are scared of accidentally tripping up.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Prosperity Gospel

I had a colleague years ago who attended a church where you could be healed of your money worries. Needless to say, the queues for this were long, and never seemed to diminish.

I've read stuff about the prosperity gospel and encountered the edges of it in the pressure put on folks from some backgrounds to succeed in their studies and so prove their faithfulness to God. In fact, years ago in a Christian bookshop in Wales I overheard a conversation where a student's first class honours degree was hailed with "What a testimony!". Well maybe, or maybe not...

Anyway it's been a very different experience to talk recently with someone coming from a prosperity gospel background and to discover what a full-on culture of that produces in your life.

The person concerned summed it up under four headings :

What did Jesus die to secure for us? Did Jesus go to the cross to buy us wealth, health and worldly success, or to secure our holiness and fellowship with God?

Salvation by works. Is salvation a free, unmerited gift of God, hard-won for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, or is it something we must fight to obtain, conquering our own sin and failings in order to earn a salvation that we can never be sure of having fully achieved.

Faith and devotion spoiled. Is faith the happy, confident trust of a child of God in his wise and living heavenly Father, or is it a tool that we use to obtain from him the things we really want, like a good job, a nice house, a smart car and a desirable marriage partner.

Corrupted service. Is my Christian service my chance to prove myself by having a wonderful and successful ministry, or is it my opportunity to be involved in my small way in the wonderful things my Heavenly Father is accomplishing?

I want to emphasise that this is not my caricature, but my summary of the unprompted testimony of someone caught up in the prosperity gospel movement and who saw through it.

Bordeaux Church Sermon Podcast

From time to time people say that our church's sermons should be online.

I have a couple of issues with this:

1) I see myself as a housewife rather than a TV chef, someone who is called to feed a family rather than to run a classy restaurant. This means that I aim to preach domestically rather than globally.

2) The Interweb is stuffed with sermon podcasts from every kind of style and stream of Christianity imaginable, and several more that defy the imagination. You need a very good reason to add to this.

But when people ask you to it makes you think. And then came Anchor, an application for iPhone which makes it easy to make a podcast and even to publish it via Apple and Google.

I have a good recorder. Or rather Gwilym does, but it's here in France and he's in England.

So we launched it. The Bordeaux Church Sermon Podcast.

We do have a bijou problemette... we cannot accurately predict when people will be unable to follow adequately in English, so that means that sometimes our messages are ... inflated in length ... by the résumés we give in French. As of yet I don't know how to tackle this.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Finding accommodation in Bordeaux

Lots of people are finding it hard.

Here are some links that may help: http://www.bordeauxchurch.info/p/coming-to-bordeaux.html

A Helter-Skelter Couple Days

It's the rentrée scolaire this week, back to school week. And every year it's nuts.

I don't know why. We haven't had kids in school now for three years, but still back to school week is nuts.

Still, today I have a chance to catch up with myself and with things, just a little.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

They didn't ask. I didn't tell them.

So I joined this choir, right? I did tell you?

Partly to meet folk, partly for therapy. I like music. I like singing. It's good for me, though less good for my family...

Anyway I joined the choir, I think, in February. They were in the throes of preparing two choral pieces for a concert in October. The pieces are the Mass by Peteris Vasks, a living Baltic composer who's the son of a Baptist pastor, and Bach's cantata no. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden.

I have had a ball. The Vasks is dense, swirly, a bit complex harmonically and rhythmically, you have to read and keep your wits about you. The Bach I have sung before, in 1978, when I was a student, in the Aberystwyth Bach Society Choir. It's great fun. Easier harmonically but still you need to read is well and keep alert. Non-trivial.

The conductor is great. He's cheerful, happy, appreciative, musical, disciplined without being too severe and generally extremely likeable.

And the choir has been glad to have me. I'm probably the youngest baritone by several years, and men are scarce in choirs in France. Not only that but I can read music, sing more or less in tune and understand and obey a conductor's instructions.

Then I saw the date of the concert. Sunday 1st October.

It's a Sunday. And it is the last Sunday of our mission week.

Oh well, maybe after the service I'll be able to scuttle up to Mérignac where the concert is taking place and it'll all work out OK. I had to do that once in Aber, though I did feel a ninny attending church in black bowtie and jacket.

Then I saw the time of the concert. It starts at 5pm.

5pm is the time of our service.

We had rehearsal last night - working on "Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg".

They didn't ask. I didn't tell them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


One of our old meet-up places, Les Mots Bleus, is under new management and has a new name.


Yes, I know. I spotted it one day back in the summer and yesterday walked past to see what gives.

It's open. It's being run by the guys from the best coffee shop in Bordeaux and they have kept on some of the staff from Les Mots Bleus.

This morning Pat and I had arranged to meet some workers from the USA for a coffee, so we met them at Horace. It was great!

A free concert on the steps of the Grand Theatre

Monday, September 04, 2017

C'est la fin ... des saucisses

The meeting room of the brethren assembly has been closed for refurbishment since the end of June. They've had an architect in who has done some major remodelling, indulging adding a new vestibule, a staircase and an upper room for children's activities.

Scheduled to take the month of July, the works have expended to fill July and August, but next Sunday we are dur to be back in the premises once more.

Meanwhile we have met in our flat or in James' flat. The drawback is that there is obviously less room and, to avoid annoyance, we have not belted out our usual rowdy songs. However there have been fewer people present these summer months and we have been able to eat together after the service.

So last night was the night of the end of the sausages. Merguez, to be exact. A spicy mix of lamb and beef, I think they are the morrocan answer to the ubiquitous pork chipolata. Still the amount of fat that comes out of them is alarming and the indigestion in the wee hours makes the end of the sausages sound like not such a bad thing.

Last night we were 24 or 25 people. Five people crushed onto our sofa. No-one was left standing or sat on the floor, but every conceivable chair was occupied.

This morning began by degreasing everything in sight, then rearranging the furniture to its usual position. It will be good to be back in our old meeting room!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

In the kitchen

Today marks the end of four weeks of sleeping on the sofa. The sofa is OK and we sleep as well on it as in our bed, but it makes getting up awkward. I sneak into the kitchen and prepare my forage in the half-light of the window and the light from the cooker hood.

Today we take Gwilym to the airport. It may be the last long holiday he takes with us. Next summer he'll be preparing to marry. It's been a very happy time together, with adventures in Toulouse and in an open top Mini.

Tomorrow morning I'll be able to get up and put the lights on, change and go running, come back and get on with my day like normal. It'll be sweet. Bittersweet.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Coffee shop adventures

It's such a long time since I frequented any of Bordeaux' coffee emporia.
Not only that, but certain of them closed for the whole month of August.

So on Thursday morning I high-tailed it into Bordeaux to visit Café Piha. Family members declined my invitation to come protesting the extreme heat (we are well into the thirties just now).

I arrived to find the place buzzing and got my nice Americano. Then the second man, whose name I forgot, appeared and invited me to join a group coffee-tasting session.

The idea is that when a batch of coffee beans comes in you have to work out how long to roast it for. Coffee is a natural product. Every batch of beans differs. Each batch reacts differently to the heat. The roasting has to be fine-tuned to achieve the optimum conversion of sugars for the optimum release of flavours.

Friday morning found me charging into town once more as a new Anticafé has opened right by the cathedral! The Anticafé is a place where you can go and work and you pay by the hour, by the day or by the month. The price you pay includes a workspace, fast wifi, access to printers etc. and also unlimited drinks and snacks.

It's a great idea for me, especially in such an accessible place.
Also the hourly rate is not excessive.
I joined straight away and I'll start working there this week.